By Erin Delmore
“When a fellow coming out of prison gets a job, it helps everyone,” said Sen. Cory Booker.
A million dollar federal grant headed to Newark to support people who are getting out of jail and at the highest risk of going back.
“We believe that if we keep these people engaged and outside of the kind of atmosphere that would create violence for them at least for a year or more and kind of make sure that they are not in the trajectory of death,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
The Second Chance Reentry Grant was doled out to New Jersey’s largest city by the Department of Justice. The funds are aimed at supporting formerly incarcerated people at risk for being involved in a homicide by giving them a case manager, social worker and mentor plus transitional employment and access to emergency needs like housing and health care.
“This is one of the best federal dollars you could invest. Because the return on that investment that we’re going to get from these federal dollars, this program, is going to save so much money,” Booker said.
The grant money will be handled by the city of Newark and Rutgers-Newark School of Criminal Justice as part of the Newark Reentry Initiative, aimed at cutting down recidivism among returning offenders most at risk to becoming victims or perpetrators of a homicide.
“We know from all the available research that there is a considerable overlap between victims and offenders,” said Rutgers University-Newark School of Criminal Justice Dean Rod Brunson.
“We know that about 1,000 people every year come back to Newark from the New Jersey prison system and they’re not all alike, they vary. We tend to talk about people in reentry as though they’re all the same, but we believe that people who are at risk of victimization and at risk of being involved in a homicide are different as a group,” said Rutgers University-Newark School of Criminal Justice Professor Todd Clear.
The Newark Reentry Initiative will work with 75 ex-offenders, chosen by analyzing crime and parole data to target people at the highest risk of being involved in a homicide.
“Thirty-one percent of homicide victims were killed within 12 months of release from state prison or Essex County custody last year,” Baraka said.
According to the city of Newark, more than 80 percent of the city’s homicide victims were known to the criminal justice system, with an average of nine arrests. The city reported an even higher percentage — 90 percent — of suspects had criminal records.
Officials say it will take a year to design a strategy for the Newark Reentry Initiative to figure out how to identify the 75 ex-offenders who will take part and how best to support them. The city of Newark and Rutgers School of Criminal Justice hope to begin offering support services in October of next year.